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Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards 2019: Super Daniel races to our Young Player of the Year crown


Motorsport stars: Bobby Willis with Paddy Hopkirk

Motorsport stars: Bobby Willis with Paddy Hopkirk

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Daniel Harper, the Young Player of the Year award winner

Daniel Harper, the Young Player of the Year award winner

Motorsport stars: Bobby Willis with Paddy Hopkirk

In 2019, Daniel Harper won Britain’s fastest one-make racing series, the Porsche Carrera Cup — and that is why he is our Young Player of the Year.

At a time when most insurance companies wouldn’t let a teenager anywhere near a Porsche, Harper (18) was setting records on the track and building a career which has now seen him recruited to join the famed BMW Junior Team in Germany.

He has climbed the slippery motorsport ladder solely on his talent and determination, a young man fully focused on his long-held ambition of becoming a professional driver.

He started young, of course, becoming a multi youth champion in karts and quads before initially making his car debut in a Northern Ireland Junior Rally Championship round at Kirkistown aged just 14. With his dad Stan a leading rally car preparation specialist, it was expected that’s where his future lay.

But with no clear career path in rallying, he quickly switched to racing, winning a scholarship to compete in the UK Ginetta Junior Championship where he scored numerous race wins and was rookie champion.

Then, while still catching the bus to Dromore High School, Harper was chosen by Porsche GB to succeed fellow Ulsterman Charlie Eastwood, the outgoing champion, as their youngest ever scholar for the 2018/19 seasons.

It was a £180,000 gamble by Porsche, entrusting a then 17-year-old with a mighty 450 horse power car on grand prix circuits from Silverstone to Monza. But Harper took two victories in his first season and finished top rookie.

Then, last season, he totally dominated the series, winning eight times and setting more fastest laps than any other driver, a feat which earned him Britain’s 2019 Rising Star award.

Highly regarded by Porsche, Harper had German rivals BMW calling. They offered him a two-year scholarship in their Junior Team which, in the past, has played a part in the development of the careers of Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel.

Although reluctant to cut his Porsche ties, it was an offer too good to turn down and Harper will live and race in Germany for the next two years.

Belfast Telegraph